I downloaded the Candy Crush app because I was seduced with promises of visual ecstasy, riveting action, and a significant reduction in my stress level. If I had known that shortly after completing the first level I’d experience tri-polar disorder and an inability to get an erection, I may have made a different decision.
My addiction to Candy Crush started the way I image most addictions start, with a casual invitation from a so-called friend. “Just try it,” said my coworker, Kathy. “It’ll help you relax.” I know she meant well, but I’m sure those are the same words that every eventual crack addict hears just before wrapping his lips around a smoldering pipe. It didn’t take long for my addiction to blossom. Once I got my feet wet by working through the early levels, I never looked back.
To date, I have lost five hundred and forty-six days of my life. I’ll never get those precious days back. Recently, while waiting for my five lives to be refreshed, I’ve found myself reminiscing about the days before Candy Crush hijacked my life; the days when I actually participated in dinner conversations and went outside. I don’t mean to sound nostalgic, but I miss that life. I suppose I could have done something to prevent my situation from escalating because the signs of trouble were definitely there.
The first sign of trouble was the hyperbolic high I experienced after successfully arranging more than three similar-colored candies in a row. Sounds silly, right? Well, let me tell you that when you line up five same-colored candies in a row and create a super candy, it is pure euphoria. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I didn’t even feel that good when I got married, or earned my MBA, or when I received my first puppy kisses from our dog, Sophie.
The second sign of trouble took a while to rear its ugly head. The jealousy hit me while I was vacationing in South Africa. I was sitting at a table in a small café in Cape Town, playing Candy Crush of course, when my waitress snuck up behind me and said, “Oh, I love that game! What level are you on?” I looked at her in defeat. “Sixty three.” I was hoping to receive some sympathy, but little did I know I was seconds away from having a pile of manure rubbed in my face. “I’m on level three fifty-two,” she added, smugly. I was instantly paralyzed with jealousy. How the hell did she get past level sixty-three? I thought. I had been on that level for over a month at that point. She is so not getting a tip.
Denial, the third sign of trouble, emerged surprisingly fast. “Do you think you’re playing that game a little too much?” my partner asked me. The question was ridiculous. Yes, we were at a funeral but my phone hadn’t been out of my pocket for more than a minute. We spent the entire ride home arguing about my lack of focus on our relationship. Well, he did most of the arguing. I was trying to get past level seventy-two. It was serendipitous that at precisely the moment he screamed, “Are you even listening to me?” I cleared the last piece of jelly and shouted, “Yes!” That bought me another week of uninterrupted game playing.
It didn’t take long for the lies to start, especially after everyone around me began questioning the frequency of my candy crushing. “Hey, Babe. I’m going to run to the convenience store. You need anything? I’d ask my partner. I was relieved when he would reply that he was all set because I had absolutely no intention of going to the convenience store. I just needed to find a place to park my car and power through a couple of levels without a set of disapproving eyes staring me down from across the room.
When I passed level two hundred, the worst sign of trouble came out of nowhere and crushed any chance I had at developing meaningful connections to other people. Apparently, a key ingredient to connecting with others is empathy. I recall walking up to a group of people at a colleague’s house party and listening to this one guy go on and on about how terrible it was that his niece was born with a clubbed foot or a cleft palate or something like that. The whole time I was thinking, This guy just doesn’t get it. Does he have any idea how hard it has been for me to get past level 209? Some people, I swear!
The final stage of my addiction arose after I deleted the app from my iPhone. I had successfully returned to my normal life of making eye contact, holding a conversation, and getting an erection. For the record, it was insanely difficult to get an erection when I only had sixty seconds to earn 200,000 points and I had cancerous chocolate pieces getting in my way. Anyway, just when I thought I was out of the woods, up popped a Facebook invitation to try Candy Crush. I am convinced that the Candy Crush people send you an invitation from the one Facebook friend you haven’t talked to in over a year. Who the f#@k is Kathy Krimpowitz? I thought. Then it occurred to me. She’s the pusher who sent me down this path in the first place. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll download the app again, I thought. Just to see if anything has changed.